WASHINGTON (August 25, 1999) -- On behalf of Pope John Paul II, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United Stateshas written to Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, appealing for clemency for Mark Gardner and Alan Willett, scheduled to be executed September 8.
"The Holy Father, while praying and expressing deep sympathy for the victims, for their families and friends, prays nevertheless that the life of Mr. Gardner and Mr. Willett themselves may be saved through your compassion and magnanimity," Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo wrote to Governor Huckabee.
As he has on similar occasions, Archbishop Montalvo added that "killing people to show that killing people is wrong" is a contradiction.
Mark Gardner is scheduled to be executed for a 1985 triple murder of a couple, Joe and Martha Joyce, and their daughter Sara McCurdy whom he also raped.
Alan Willett, who has refused all further appeals of his case and has rejected any possible clemency, killed his adolescent son, Eric, and his brother Roger and attempted to take the life of two other family members.
The Church's involvement in the capital punishment issue has taken on a high profile in recent months. In January, Pope John Paul called for an end to the death penalty while on his pastoral visit to St. Louis, and successfully appealed to Governor Mel Carnahan of Missouri to commute the death sentence of convicted murderer Darrell Mease. The U.S. Bishops' Administrative Board released a Good Friday statement on April 2, calling on the nation's more than 60 million Catholics to oppose the death penalty. In the past two months, Archbishop Montalvo has made clemency appeals for men on death row in a number of different states.
N.B. A copy of the U.S. Bishops' Good Friday statement can be obtained through the Department of Communications of the United States Catholic Conference.